Ukraine Unlocked is a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of the cultural, political, and economic developments in the country. We hope to provide students, professionals, and the casual reader with greater insight into Ukraine as its role on the global stage evolves throughout the 21st century.
🗞 Ukraine Unlocked in the News: 🗞 Ukraine Unlocked co-founder Gabe sat down with Franklin and Marshall College's newly launched podcast to discuss his time in Ukraine and our newsletter. Listen to it here.
This Week's Takeaway...
Questions of corruption have once again surfaced about the Zelenskyy administration after months of relative unquestioned support from the U.S. public and government. Ukraine has struggled with systemic corruption since 1991, when it gained independence from the USSR, but has made some critical reforms since 2014. Despite steady improvements, Ukrainians elected President Zelenksyy in 2019 because of his anti-corruption platform. He has led several key reforms, such as eliminating political immunity and signing a law preventing oligarchs from taking ownership of nationalized banks. Still, even as recently as October 2021, the U.S. and E.U. had concerns about the Zelenskyy administration’s commitment to rooting out corruption. Their primary criticism was the two-year delay in appointing a new anti-corruption prosecutor. Ukraine’s history with endemic corruption, and some of Zelenskyy’s shortcomings, have led skeptics in the U.S. to question the amount of aid the U.S. is supplying to Ukraine and the Biden administration’s unwavering support.
How does Ukraine’s history with corruption undermine its relationship with the U.S…read more here.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Credit: Flickr
Blinken and Lavrov Sit Down:In the first meeting between senior U.S. and Russian officials since the onset of the war, Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed the details of a potential prisoner swap between the two countries. The U.S. has been trying to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and security consultant Paul Whelan, but the price officials would need to pay is likely high. Rumors have surfaced that Russia would want convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the two Americans.
Catching Up: You can read our previous analysis on what Griner’s detention means for Ukraine here.
War Crimes from Russia: Ukrainian officials have been outspoken about their belief that Russian troops have committed war crimes against Ukrainian citizens and soldiers. But Russia is also now claiming that they have experienced similar unjustified attacks. The Kremlin recently announced that 92 members of the Ukrananian armed forces have been charged with crimes against humanity.
Aerial view of Kherson. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Strategic Update – Week 22 of War
Missile Strike Kills Dozens of POWs: On Friday, an explosion at a Russian-held prison in the Donetsk region killed dozens of Ukrainian POWs. Russian-backed officials in Donetsk accused Ukrainians of intentionally attacking the prison using U.S.-supplied HIMARS missiles. Leadership in Donetsk alleged that Kyiv launched the attack because the Ukrainian POWs were describing war crimes they had committed against Russia. Officials in Kyiv denied the accusations and asserted that Russia intentionally destroyed the prison to hide maltreatment. As of Saturday, no independent sources could verify the explosion's origins.
Strong Counterattack: On Saturday, Ukrainian officials announced that they had successfully destroyed two ammunition depots, killed hundreds of Russian soldiers, and cut off train supply lines in the Russian-controlled Kherson region. Russian forces have controlled the region for the duration of the war, but Ukrainian troops are making progress in their southern counter-offensive. British Intelligence noted that the attack destroyed the three main bridges that cross the Dnipro River and left the Russian forces isolated and vulnerable.
Olena Zelenska feature in Vogue Magazine. Credit: People Magazine
Ukraine's Vogue Feature
Women at War:A New York gallery teamed up with some Ukrainian artists to show the female experience with war. At the Fridman Gallery in New York, a number of pieces created by contemporary female artists are on display. Their art touches on topics ranging from childbirth to serving in the military. The show has been on display since July 6th and will continue through August 26th.
En Vogue:Voguepublished its feature on Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska this past week. The article and accompanying photos show a glamorized version of the life Ukraine’s first family is leading during the war. Vogue labeled Zelenska “A portrait of bravery,” but the feature drew a bit of backlash. Some are saying that the article makes the first couple unrelatable and elitist, but others claim that their leaders’ fame can serve as a rallying point for national pride.
Rave Cleanups:Volunteers in Ukraine are rallying the country’s strong rave culture for a good cause. DJs are playing techno music as volunteers clean up places affected by attacks from Russian forces. Volunteers have come from all over Ukraine and the world, with some traveling from as far as the U.S. to help.
Bessarabsky Market in Kyiv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Inflation Compounds Pain: The average Ukrainian’s salary has remained the same since the war began, but fuel and food price inflation have only caused more pain and grief. According to the National Bank of Ukraine, fuel prices have soared 90%, while food prices have increased more than 35%. The influx of humanitarian aid in February and March helped offset the increase in costs, but the aid has slowed to a trickle. As a result, Ukrainians are now cutting back on buying food products like fresh meats and cheeses, hurting small businesses and vendors.
Uncertain Grain Deal: Russia’s bombing of Odesa on July 23rd cast doubt on the effectiveness of the grain deal that Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the U.N. signed the day prior. Despite the challenges, Turkey has launched the grain monitoring station in Istanbul, and President Zelenskyy said on Friday that the first ship is ready to sail from the Black Sea. The coming weeks will test the reliability of the new agreement.
Time Magazine's Front Cover of March/April edition. Credit: Flickr
U.S. Officials Keep their Word: The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the U.S. has admitted over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees over the past five months, fulfilling President Biden's promise he made in March. 47,000 came through non-immigrant visas, 30,000 came via private sponsorship, and another 22,000 arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. The 100,000 refugees are just a small part of the more than seven million Ukrainians that have fled the country since February 24th.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.
Former Ukrainian-born NBA Lakers player, Slava Medvedenko, is selling his two championship rings and donating the profits to help Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers who lost their limbs in the war arrived in Minneapolis to be fitted for prosthetics at Limb Lab, a Minnesota-based orthotics and prosthetics service. They were greeted by a massive group who gave the soldiers flowers and gifts at the airport.
Want to Help Ukraine?
Looking to lend support to Ukraine, below are some ways you can help:
Help forPEACE, which seeks to connect foreign donations with on-the-ground organizations in Ukraine